Covid-19 survivors often worry about its long-term impact on their lungs. Researchers and doctors now warn that they should be worried about their hearts too.
The lungs and the heart are located next to each other. A recent study published in the UK-based journal ‘Circulation’ found that people diagnosed with Covid-19 were 21 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, increasing the risk of potentially life-threatening blood clots.
The study has brought renewed attention to the link between the two organs, so much so that doctors in India now say that patients diagnosed with any chronic lung diseases such as asthma, ILD (interstitial lung disease) and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) must go for a cardiac evaluation.
“A huge part of our blood circulation occurs between lungs and heart. Yet the connection between the two is often overlooked when it comes to treatments,” said Dr Atri Gangopadhyay, consultant pulmonologist, Ranchi, Jharkhand and national spokesperson, Chest Council of India.
“When someone discovers a lung problem, the focus is only on treating the lungs. Similarly, when someone develops a heart problem, all attention goes to the heart. The thought that a symptom can occur due to both heart and lungs rarely enters the mind,” said Dr Gangopadhyay.
With the number of unexpected heart attacks in people suffering from and recovering from Covid-19 on the rise, according to doctors, the practice of looking at organs in isolation may soon be over.
“In our body, no system is isolated, they are all connected to one another, and one system always affects the other,” said Dr Rajan Shetty, HoD, cardiology department, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru.
“One of the closest associations in our body is between the heart and the lungs. They are extensions of the same vascular system,” said Dr Shetty.
According to him, during the initial phase of the pandemic and the emergence of the Delta variant of Covid-19, every time there was a heart attack, the risk of mortality increased 10 times.
“We observed two things during Covid-19. An increase in heart attack after recovering from Covid or after suffering from Covid,” said Dr Shetty.
Postmortem reports of Covid-19 victims in China and Italy, too, showed a lot of clotting in their blood vessels.
“Covid is certainly contributing to some sort of disease that also affects our blood vessels. So, it’s important that whenever a patient diagnosed with lung disease is unable to recover according to expectations, they must also receive a cardiological evaluation,” said Dr Shetty.
Mr Ganesh Prasad, Founder, MD & CEO GenWorks, said, “GenWorks solutions are focused on solving care cycle needs. Heart and lungs are a major focus post-Covid, and it is very important to assess the wellness of the heart and lungs. The heart check made a later entry in diagnostics as a part of the master health check-up. We still use the legacy Spirometer, which only assesses the upper respiratory tract and is very difficult to use. The time is right now for lung diffusion tests at diagnostics to make lung assessment easy. A quality Spirometer, a 6-minute walk test or lung diffusion testing is an important part of a wellness program.”
He added, “Our connected care solutions for heart and lungs help to remotely interpret in low resource settings that don’t have a cardiologist or a pulmonologist at the site. On World Heart Day, let us pledge to build wellness of the heart and lungs with simple tests that can prevent a major illness.”